4000 word day

Yesterday I wrote 4000 words. That’s a lot more than my usual. I was wondering why I get so tired of writing, and it occurred to me that because I tend to work slowly, I might be like someone carrying around a heavy suitcase for a long time. There’s effort involved in just mentally holding onto material for that long. I forget things, make piles of notes, lose notes, change my mind, etc. — I waste a lot of energy.

So I decided to try writing fast. Not blurting, “bad writing” fast — it still took me about 10 hours to do those 4000 words — but fast as in, if I wrote like this every day for a month, I’d have a first draft of a novel.

I can only write in that steady way when I know what I want to write — what events occur, what the emotional content is. Too often I don’t know what’s happening, simply don’t know what I want, other than perhaps a certain atmosphere. And I can fiddle around for ages trying to create that atmosphere in a scene, and then plot blows the atmosphere apart. That has been happening with Gunpowder Tea. I’ve been finding it very difficult to get plot, the mechanics of the non-real world, emotion and atmosphere all playing nice together. I’m beginning to wonder whether there are certain atmospheric textures that are damn near impossible to create as sustained qualities in a fantasy world — or at least, a fantasy world with magic or supernatural elements — because the fantastical itself destroys them. It’s a bit like having the light filtering through a shoji screen, and going ooh, isn’t that nice and mysterious, and then a dragon charges through the screen. And the dragon is awesome, but the mysterious, suggestive light is gone. Anyway, the piece I was working on yesterday is mainstream, no fantasy whatsoever.

(ETA: Or maybe the problem is that I sometimes get enamoured with the texture of a film — the whole atmosphere created by colours, lighting, music, the ratio of dialogue to silence, and want to recreate it with the written word, and run into difficulties.)

(ETA 2: Of course, the problem just might be my magpie mind. I get the shoji screen, and then I just have to have that horse with a lamp on its head, and put it in the same room!)

5 thoughts on “4000 word day

  1. What’s a shoji screen without a lampshade horse to shine through it??

    because the fantastical itself destroys them
    I’ve felt this conflict as well, both when reading and writing, since my appetite is so much for atmosphere and suggestion. As soon as revelation and “mechanics of the non-real world” enter into it… it seems to lose that delicacy of sensation, become unhappily specific. There are very few writers I’ve read recently who can do the explication/revelation side as well as, and in concert with, the “weird suggestive shit!” side.

    Congratulations on the day of ferocious productivity – I feel vicarious mental exhaustion at the thought of 4000 words.

    Separately, I saw this recently:
    and thought of you, take that as you will…

  2. (I just looked again at that horse, and he’s really, really charming. The lightbulb/lampshade setup makes me think that he’s having good ideas all the time, but too modest to go around showing them off. Don’t keep your lamp under a bushel, horse!!)

  3. > What’s a shoji screen without a lampshade horse to shine through it??

    Goddamn that’s a good question! Almost a koan. I love your take on the horse having good ideas. I can imagine him becoming enshrined as the god of bright ideas, and people making offerings to him.

    I’m glad it isn’t just me who has this problem.
    Can you think of names of those writers who pull off the trick of getting revelation and suggestion working in tandem?

    That picture: Bfffft! XD I think the skeleton’s saying, “Want bitty…” (NSFW)

  4. I’d certainly sign up for a Cult of the Horse of Bright Ideas!!

    I’ve kept thinking about this the past few days, and came across a useful (I thiiink) quote in an introduction to E T A Hoffmann’s “The Sandman:”
    “In Hoffmann, objectified material [phenomena shown to have an objective reality] serves well because it enriches the range of potential interpretations but does not exhaust them. There is nothing in ‘The Sandman,’ which explains, for example, Coppelius’ uncanny power over Nathanel; nor should there be.”

    One of the main thinks that I’ve achieved is that the authors whom I tend to like and think of as succeeding both in revelation and suggestion, tend to work in registers that invite you to question objective reality to begin with – obsessed/hysterical/depressed etc. characters, the absurdist and surrealist, etc.

    So the shoji-bustin’ dragon is embedded in a sufficiently strange and marshy matrix, and written in a sufficiently congruently strange way, that it remains of a piece with the rest of the work. (I’m imagining a dragon snaking in and out of a mille fleur tapestry background now.) Or even if the dragon is written in a less strange and more “Hi, I’m a dragon” way, the reader has already been set up with the expectation that reality is to be questioned, so the matter-of-factness of the dragon would itself become something to be questioned.

    Some of the contemporary writers I was thinking of: Catherynne Valente, especially in Palimpsest; Helen Oyeyemi is AMAZING at insisting upon both the objective reality of her supernatural phenomena, and the instability of all kinds of reality. I also just thought of Twin Peaks, though that doesn’t quite count as written.

    I don’t know if any of this is helpful… I sometimes have trouble holding a lot of examples in my head, which makes it hard for me to generalize and extrapolate “rules.” What do you think??

    I wept a tear of uncomfortable feelings after I watched the “Want bitty” clip. Thank you.

  5. I like your “strange and marshy matrix”. And the idea of “congruently strange”. Not identically, just congruently — that seems something to keep in mind. As does using characters whose state of mind calls objective reality into question. It might not be necessary, but it’s a useful tactic.

    In absurdism and surrealism I think it’s a bit easier to manage the registers of revelation and suggestion, because sense-making isn’t as important as it might be in a story with at least a foot in the world of conventional narrative — less explication is needed, or you can do odder things to get yourself out of a corner.

    I’ve got Palimpsest but I can’t read it yet. I can’t read surrealish or oneiric stories when I’m writing something in that vein. Things bleed together in my head too much. I had to stop reading Naked Lunch and put it away for later, too. You’re the second person to recommend Oyeyemi to me. Just bought White is for Witching!

Comments are closed.